What are the First Signs of Breast Cancer?
Medikoe Health Expert
Koramangala, bengaluru, karnataka, india, Bengaluru Feb 9, 2017
Do you know that 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime? It is the most common cancer in women after skin cancer.
What is Breast Cancer?
“Breast cancer” is a malignant tumour that has developed from cells in the breast. Sometimes, cells in the breast change and no longer grow or behave normally, leading to non-cancerous or benign breast conditions such as atypical hyperplasia and cysts. They can also cause non-cancerous tumours such as intraductal papillomas. But in some cases, changes occurring in the breast cells can cause breast cancer.
A tumour can be either benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). If left unchecked, malignant cells eventually spread beyond the original tumour area to other parts of the body.
Breast cancer either forms in the cells of the lobules, which are the milk producing glands, or the ducts, the passages that drain milk from the lobules to the nipple. Sometimes, breast cancer can begin in the stromal tissues, which include the fatty and fibrous connective tissues of the breast.
Breast cancer is mostly caused by a genetic abnormality (a “mistake” in the genetic material). However, only 5% to 10% of cancers are due to an abnormality inherited from either parents. Instead, 85% to 90% of breast cancers are due to genetic abnormalities that happen as a result of the aging process and the stress of life in general.
Symptoms & Signs
Skin changes or irritation such as swelling, redness, puckering, dimpling, scaliness, new creases or other visible differences in one or both breasts.
- An increase or change in the size or shape of the breasts.
- Changes in the appearance of one or both nipples.
- Nipple discharge other than breast milk that occurs suddenly and is bloody.
- Pain in any part of the breast that does not go away.
- Lumps inside the breast that feels like a hard knot.
- A thickening in the breast tissue.
- A lump in the underarm area.
- A retracted or inwardly turned nipple turned or a sore in the nipple area.
- Warm, red, swollen breasts with or without a rash with dimpling resembling the skin of an orange, called “peau d'orange”.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Breast cancer can be easily diagnosed during a physical exam, by self-examination of the breasts, mammography, ultrasound and biopsy. Treatment depends on the type of cancer and its stage (0-IV) and may involve surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy.
Women who have a family history of breast cancer are at a high risk and should get an MRI and a mammogram every year. Others should also get at least a yearly mammogram done.
Breast cancer deaths have drastically reduced due to growing awareness in the past few years. However, it is important that if you experience even mild symptoms, do consult a doctor as early as possible. Remember that breast cancer is a disease just like any other and regardless of the stigma around it, there should be no shame or guilt experienced while seeking help.